Escape 'Clause'!

This Tim Allen holiday film franchise has reached a new low

The first two films were holiday classics compared to The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, an irritating, shoddy-looking sequel that is the stuff direct-to-video movies are made of. Featuring an entirely unimaginative North Pole, lousy special effects and Martin Short totally blowing it as Jack Frost, this film has few redeeming qualities. It even makes the usually reliable Alan Arkin look clueless and bland.

The film's plot has something to do with Frost looking to hijack Christmas from Santa (Allen), who is anxiously awaiting the birth of his next child while trying to prepare for the holidays. Compounding Santa's troubles is his wife wanting to see her parents (Ann-Margret and Arkin), something that could threaten the secret of Santa. None of these plot threads play out in a manner that is entertaining. In fact, all of them pretty much made me want to smash my head on the seat in front of me. I would've done it, but there were little kids up there, and they seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Speaking of the kids, don't feel embarrassed for liking this holiday tripe if you are younger than 12. We all have those films that we look back on, knowing that we loved them as a child, only to realize as an adult that they were embarrassingly bad. For me, it's The Devil and Max Devlin. I thought Bill Cosby rocked as Satan. In actuality, he was super lame.

Sorry, I have wandered off the subject ... back to the film.

Short, looking not unlike Snow Miser from the stop-animation classic The Year Without a Santa Claus, tries his little heart out to make this thing work, but he's a supercharged cook without a proper kitchen. He struggles and strains for laughs, but his super cool SCTV days prove to be long, long behind him. (I actually detected a trace of Ed Grimley in his Frost portrayal.)

Allen spends much of the film in his Santa makeup, and he really doesn't work the suit all that well, almost as if he's frustrated with the whole enterprise. The movie takes a semi-promising diversion where Frost and Santa go back in time, right into the first film. It is the movie's most inventive sequence, but it's not enough to save the film. It's also a bit depressing to see the scenes from the movie 12 years ago. While that film was no classic, it beats this one in all categories. Also, Allen looks like he's aged 25 years in the past 12.

Now, about that lousy-looking North Pole: The sets for this film have the artistic nuance of an elementary school Christmas pageant, and we're talking an elementary school with a piss-poor arts budget. There's no sense of wonder in this North Pole. The makeup and costumes are equally bad, and there are actually moments where you can see extras looking straight into the camera, as if to say. "What am I supposed to do now?" Making matters worse is a soundtrack that has little flurries of flutes and strings after every damn joke. Highly annoying.

The film was directed by Michael Lembeck, who directed The Santa Clause 2. His other film was Connie and Carla, one of the dumbest movies of the last 10 years. This guy is giving the likes of Paul W.S. Anderson (AVP: Alien Vs. Predator) and Joel Schumacher some competition for the title of worst director in the world.

Clearly, Disney thought they had a cash cow with this franchise, so they got cheap and lackadaisical on this production. Well, they got their ass handed to them by Borat, a film that opened on 2,500 fewer screens. I would not be surprised if the series were put to bed, or sent straight to video with another former sitcom star in the suit. Matt LeBlanc is super-available. Joey as Santa ... that might work! Let's get some Internet buzz going!

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